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Little Chefs

Posted: November 19, 2019

By: Heather McCammond-Watts, Youth Department Director

Autumn is the perfect opportunity to spend time in the kitchen with your kids. Cooking is highly creative and is a surefire way to connect. Cookbooks written especially for kids break down each task into more manageable parts and give you tips for success. Kids can chop safely with either plastic knives or butter knives. They can wash and scrub veggies and fruit, or tear bread or lettuce into pieces. They are good at stirring and mixing, and of course you want them to be your special taste testers throughout the process. For toddlers, give them food to play with in a bowl – things like bananas, rice, pasta, or avocados. Talk about the textures and colors of the food as you work together.

Step 1: Decide what to cook as a team. Let the kids take the lead, and choose a recipe that you all feel excited about. Give kids the cookbook and have them browse through it ahead of time to select something. This is a terrific literacy builder, and very motivating to see the pictures of all of the delicious food.

Step 2: Gather your ingredients. When you go grocery shopping, it’s a wonderful time to practice some math. Practice counting, multiplication/division, or money concepts. Let the kids figure out which size bowls or pans you may need. If they are making the decisions, they learn problem solving and estimation skills. If things don’t turn out “correctly,” then all the better! Cooking helps kids make mistakes and learn from them in a low-risk way. If you’re missing something, talk about what you could substitute instead, and why. Let them make some guesses and hypothesize: “What would happen if we substituted orange juice for the milk in this recipe?”

Step 3: Read the recipe twice. Reading it aloud helps to understand the concepts more deeply and is a fantastic vocabulary builder. As you’re preparing the recipe, talk about what you’re cooking and make up a story about what would happen if you took the dish into the woods for the animals, or to school for the teachers, or to a neighbor’s house. This could be a kindness activity and empathy builder, especially if you do end up sharing the food. Have your child be a “master chef” and act as the boss in the kitchen. Let them figure out what needs to happen next, and you can be their assistant sous chef, following their lead.

Step 4: It’s clean up time! When kids get messy, they are learning, because it means all their senses are firing at once. However, there are ways to keep things neat and organized as you go along. Keep a sink full of soapy water both for washing hands and for dipping in messy utensils. Put a “Burp Box” under the table. It’s called a burp box, because you put all the ingredients in there once you’ve used them in your recipe, so you’re finished with them. Burps happen when you finish the meal! This makes putting things away much easier later. Finally, pick a fun apron or towel to wear – even a superhero cape can make the cooking adventure more fun and it protects your clothes. Most importantly, laugh and enjoy the experience together!